PARIS • French President Emmanuel Macron said his country is fighting "Islamist separatism, never Islam", in response to a Financial Times article that he claimed misquoted him and has since been removed from the newspaper's website.
In a letter to the editor published on Wednesday, Mr Macron said the British paper had accused him of "stigmatising French Muslims for electoral purposes and of fostering a climate of fear and suspicion towards them".
"I will not allow anybody to claim that France, or its government, is fostering racism against Muslims," he said.
An opinion piece by an FT correspondent published on Monday alleged that Mr Macron's condemnation of "Islamic separatism" risked fostering a "hostile environment" for French Muslims. The article was later removed online and replaced with a notice saying it "contained factual errors".
Yesterday, while visiting France's border with Spain, Mr Macron called for a strengthening of border controls in the European Union's Schengen zone following recent Islamist attacks in France and Austria. The tighter controls would target illegal immigration amid "a growing terrorism threat", he said.
Mr Macron sparked protests across the Muslim world after last month's murder of teacher Samuel Paty - who had shown his class a cartoon of Prophet Muhammad - by saying France would never renounce its laws permitting blasphemous caricatures.
Islam forbids depictions of Prophet Muhammad.
After protests and boycotts of French goods across parts of the world, Mr Macron told media last week he understood the caricatures could be shocking for some.
But he warned in his letter this week that there were still "breeding grounds" for extremism in his country. "This is what France is fighting against... hatred and death that threaten its children - never against Islam."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS